The Kouga Ninja Scrolls was a novel that I had wanted to read for years. So, when it was finally translated in English and published by Del Rey in 2006, I picked it up the day it hit the shelves. Did it live up to the hype?
I wasn't disappointed. The Kouga Ninja Scrolls is an incredible read and highly recommended for both anime fans and those who love ninja cinema. The novel focuses on two rival ninja clans, the Kouga and Iga, both of which are at peace. However, their "no-hostilities" truce is broken when the government enlists the ten deadliest ninja from each clan to wage battle with one another. In turn, the winner of this bloody war determines who the next Shogun will be.
Del Rey did a magnificent job on publishing this novel too. First off, Geoff Sant's translation here is easily the gold-standard for Japanese-to-English novel translations. Everything flows naturally, dialogue isn't stilted or awkward, and the action is described in vivid language. Further, Del Rey even included a map of the Iga and Kouga Provinces, a "cast of characters" list with short descriptions of the main players, and a roll call sheet of each clan's ten ninja combatants.
Yamada's novel would go on to see a number of adaptations, with the most notable ones being a manga, Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls (2003), a Gonzo produced anime simply titled, Basilisk (2005), and Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (2005), a live-action feature film. All three adaptations, especially the manga and anime, stayed remarkably true to the novel, proving that the source material is in no way dated, despite having been written nearly sixty years ago!